By Anna

Art, and literature in particular for me, progresses society. If art were to fail, society would regress into times such as those depicted in Aldous Huxley’s 1984. The following poems define how America was seen by poets at three different times in our history, but all are relevant for how we view and are a part of America today.

“Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman

If “Song of Myself” does not inspire you to tears, or at least give you a sense of connection to those around you, I don’t know if anything will. Though it’s a tad long, it’s worth a listen or a read out loud. My favorite lines come in section 16: “I am old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,/Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,/Maternal as well as Paternal, a child as well as a man,/Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff that is fine”

He inspires me to write and inspires many to live because he fights prejudices and hatred through truthful poetic words.

“Dope” by Amiri Baraka

Though I’ve only recently been introduced to Baraka, he articulates the life of Black Culture better than anyone else I have read. Though he was later than the Harlem Renaissance, he gets it. His own spoken words breathe life into ignorance and articulates what I, a white girl, could never know or say. “Dope” expresses the hope and need to get out of the ghetto and do more, if only one were given the chance to.

“America” by Allen Ginsberg

Though most known for his “Howl” he also has a few words for America in this 1956 piece expressing his frustration with this great nation. The ranting of the Beat Generation courses through my veins whenever I write. No other generation gave so much power to the written word interlaced with the uncertainty of metaphysics. From the rhythm that was jazz and the hum of the treads on the road, to the clickity-clack of my nails against the ever so feminine keys, the beat, the beatitude you feel as you listen and read and write is there and it empowers those who have never known power; it is everything.